Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Beautiful Eurydice shows how it's done

With the Tavern's interest in matters maritime, it may not surprise you to know that we once owned a tide clock.

Things have come a long way since the intricate machines constructed for the purpose in the 19th century, which represent an impressive degree of initiative and ingenuity as well as having a certain steampunk charm.

Ours resembled a normal clock, except that the numbers had been replaced by a jaunty selection of flags (which may, for all I know, may spell out an exceedingly rude message in naval code; I never checked) marking off the tide levels in its 12.4 hour circuit.

Setting this useful gadget turned out to be a complicated and arcane ritual which had to be performed at high tide when the moon was full, as close to midnight as possible. Even then the clock lost 15 minutes a month and had to be reset at regular intervals, necessitating much checking of tide tables to find a suitable opportunity.

The speckled sea-louse, however, is spared all this fuss, since it has its own internal tide clock. According to recent research, Eurydice pulchra, even when removed from tidal waters and deprived of the circadian mechanism that reacts to light, continues to swim in time to anticipated tide changes.

The creature's name presumably derives from the way it burrows deep into the sand at low tide and emerges when the tide comes in, all, it appears, guided by a built-in ability to predict the ebb and flow.

I can't help feeling that, given the vast number of tide-related call-outs the RNLI have reported this summer, it would be a very good thing if scientists found some way of implanting this awareness in human beings.

Meanwhile, you can never have enough Gluck.

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